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Evans v. General Motors Corporation

June 19, 2000

KELLY EVANS, A MINOR, BY HER MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PATRICIA EVANS HUSTED, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION AND HOWARD PONTIAC, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 98--AR--2140 Honorable C. Stanley Austin, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger

The plaintiff, Kelly Evans, a minor, by her mother and next friend, Patricia Evans Husted, appeals from the following orders of the circuit court of Du Page County: (1) the December 23, 1998, order dismissing the first two counts in her complaint as being barred by the statute of limitations; and (2) the April 1, 1999, order granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment as to count III of her complaint on the grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel.

The facts relevant to the disposition of this appeal are as follows. On July 17, 1992, Patricia Evans Husted (Patricia) purchased a new 1992 Pontiac Grand Am from Howard Pontiac. On June 7 and June 8, 1993, Patricia brought the Grand Am into Howard Pontiac for brake repairs. On June 13, 1993, while Patricia was driving the Grand Am, an accident occurred. Kelly Evans, Patricia's minor daughter (Kelly), was a passenger in the car and suffered injuries. The accident allegedly occurred when the Grand Am's brakes failed.

On February 5, 1996, Patricia filed a complaint against the defendants, General Motors Corporation (GMC) and Howard Pontiac. Patricia alleged that GMC and Howard Pontiac breached their written and implied warranties under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C. §2301 et seq. (West 1994)). Patricia alleged that the Grand Am had defective brakes, which Howard Pontiac did not properly repair or replace. Patricia therefore sought to revoke her contract with the defendants and to recover contract damages as well as incidental and consequential damages.

Patricia further alleged that GMC and Howard Pontiac violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (the Consumer Fraud Act) (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1996)) and committed common-law fraud during the sale of the Grand Am. Patricia alleged that Howard Pontiac had falsely represented to her that vehicle was "new," in good condition, and free from defects. She alleged that Howard Pontiac committed the fraud, but that GMC was jointly responsible for the fraud due to its alleged principal-agent relationship with Howard Pontiac.

During discovery, GMC propounded interrogatories upon Patricia. One of the interrogatories requested that Patricia identify the nature of the injury that she was claiming as a result of the June 13, 1993, accident. Patricia responded that her daughter, Kelly, had received numerous injuries, including a head injury, two sprained legs, and cuts and bruises on her body.

On or about December 13, 1996, GMC filed a motion for summary judgment on the causes of action based upon common-law fraud and the Consumer Fraud Act. GMC argued that Patricia could not establish that Howard Pontiac was GMC's agent for purposes of selling cars manufactured by GMC to the public. On February 25, 1997, the trial court granted GMC's motion for summary judgment on the fraud counts.

On May 19, 1997, Patricia and the defendants entered into a settlement. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, Patricia received $40,000 in return for dismissing with prejudice the remaining allegations contained in her complaint. In addition, the settlement provided that the "dismissal shall be a bar to the bringing of any action based on or including the claim for which this action [was] brought."

On September 4, 1998, Kelly, by and through her mother and next friend Patricia, filed a three-count complaint against the defendants. This complaint was based on the sale and repair of the Grand Am and the June 13, 1993, accident. Kelly sought to recover for injuries she suffered due to the accident. Counts I and II alleged that the defendants had breached both written and implied warranties under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Count III alleged that the defendants had been negligent in the repairs performed on the Grand Am immediately prior to the accident.

On October 7, 1998, GMC filed a motion to dismiss the first two counts of Kelly's complaint pursuant to section 2--619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/2--619 (West 1998)). GMC argued that these counts were barred because Kelly had failed to file her action within the applicable four-year statute of limitations provided by section 2--725 of the Uniform Commercial Code (the UCC) (810 ILCS 5/2--725 (West 1998)). GMC also argued that Kelly had failed to state a cause of action under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act because she was seeking recovery only for personal injuries. On December 3, 1998, Howard Pontiac filed a motion to adopt GMC's motion to dismiss.

On December 23, 1998, the trial court dismissed the first two counts in Kelly's complaint. The trial court held that Kelly's warranty claims were barred by the four-year statute of limitations in section 2--725 of the UCC (810 ILCS 5/2--725 (West 1998)). In so ruling, the trial court explained that it was not ruling on whether Kelly had properly stated a cause of action under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

On January 15, 1999, GMC filed a motion for summary judgment as to the remaining allegation in Kelly's complaint regarding negligent repair. GMC argued that this count was barred under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. GMC argued that Kelly's action was barred by res judicata because her claim was based on the same operative facts and involved the same legal interests as Patricia's earlier claim. GMC argued that both claims involved allegedly defective brakes, negligent repair of the brakes, and damages and injuries resulting from a June 13, 1993, accident. GMC further argued that Kelly was barred by collateral estoppel from relitigating the trial court's ruling in Patricia's case that no agency relationship existed between GMC and Howard Pontiac. Alternatively, GMC argued that it was entitled to summary judgment because Kelly could not establish that an agency relationship existed between GMC and Howard Pontiac. On January 21, 1999, the trial court granted Howard Pontiac leave to join GMC's motion for summary judgment.

On April 1, 1999, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The trial court held that Kelly's negligent-repair count was barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel. The trial court found that there was no reason that Patricia could not have brought Kelly's action at the same time ...


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